random acts of stupidity and kindness in the birthplace of Western civilization

A few years back, I spent a summer living out my Indiana Jones fantasies on an archaeological excavation in Arcadia, Greece.  Archaeology is actually nothing like Indiana Jones, but for the sake of appearing much cooler than I actually am, just imagine that I spent a couple months wearing a fedora and cracking a whip atop the alter of Zeus at Lykaion and be jealous.

in reality, I definitely spent more time befriending bugs and following them around than wielding a whip

Most of the team had a night to kill before flying home, and so we made plans to spend the evening in Athens before heading to the airport the following morning.  Using my internet skills, I found my clan a cheap place to stay for the night, and we boarded the train into the city.  Upon arriving at our hotel, I reached for my wallet to pay, only to find no. wallet. anywhere.  Navigating the metro during rush hour and being stupid with an awkward amount of luggage in a somewhat shady area of the city, it appeared, had led to my first-ever pickpocketing incident.  Sudden panic set in, but I quickly pulled myself together and set about assessing the damage and canceling my cards.  Survival money was lent, and I resolved to put it behind me and move on to having a wonderful night with a group that I would not see for awhile, or maybe ever, again.

As we feasted on tzatziki and saganaki, fresh salad and grilled octopus, spanakopita and souvlaki, washing it all down with Mythos beer, my problems were easily forgotten (and perhaps purposely avoided in conversation due to my embarrassment over being such an easy target).

Mythos, beer of the gods--pairs perfectly with ambrosia

In fact, after getting home and explaining the situation to my parents, reluctantly purchasing a replacement wallet, and writing a check to the friend who had so graciously lent me money, I absorbed myself fully in the ongoing Olympic Games, reconnected with the friends I had not seen for months, and nearly forgot about the situation altogether.

The following fall, my mom called me at school to ask if I was in trouble with the US Embassy, as a letter had arrived for me.  Being fairly certain that if the government had a bone to pick with me, I probably would not find out via snail mail, I asked her to open the letter and read me the contents.  Imagine my surprise to hear that the US Embassy in Athens had my wallet and would be shipping it shortly.  Not only would I have my wallet back, but I would receive the entire contents, including a check for nearly €100.

To this day, I sometimes wonder where my wallet was found and who the kind soul was that returned it.  Perhaps I left it on the counter when I purchased my train ticket, or if it fell underneath my seat as a I reached in my bag for a book on the suburban rail.  Perhaps it was airport security or another weary traveler.  Whatever the case may be, it certainly is one of those moments that has restored my faith in humanity.

The world is fundamentally a good place.

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